The New Jersey State Senate on Thursday confirmed the first black woman to be named as a judge in the Supreme Court. Fabiana Pierre-Louis is a 39-year-old private lawyer and a former federal prosecutor. She was nominated by Democratic Governor Phil Murphy in June to replace Justice Walter Timpone.
At 39, she is the youngest person ever to serve as a Justice on New Jersey’s highest court. Pierre-Louis succeeds Walter Timpone, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in November. Senate President and Democrat Steve Sweeney said, “Pierre Louis is a successful New Jersey personality who will further diversify into the nation’s most diverse state’s top court.” She is Murphy’s first choice for the top court.
The daughter of Haiti immigrants, Pierre Louis is the first member of her family to study law. She became emotional while talking with Murphy about her family in her life at an event in Trenton in June.
She said, “Many years ago, my family came to America from Haiti with nothing more than American dreams in their clothes and hearts. I think they have achieved more than their dreams because my life certainly does not represent the traditional career path of the person who will one day be nominated to the top court of New Jersey. “
When she graduated from Rutgers Law School, she became a law clerk for former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John Wallace in 2006,
“I know how important it is for young people to see people who look like them, or come from similar neighborhoods as them, or similar backgrounds, to see those people in positions of leadership,” Pierre-Louis said.
Pierre-Louis grew up in Irvington after her family moved from Brownsville, Brooklyn, when she was 8.
Her father was a New York City taxi driver who saved up to buy his own medallion, while her mother spent more than 20 years working at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.
“Their work ethic is something I’ve always looked up to,” Pierre-Louis said. “They worked extremely hard coming to a country where they didn’t speak the language, didn’t know many people and really established themselves.”
While this nomination comes at a time of racial strife, Murphy made it clear his nomination had nothing to do with that and said he began vetting her in February.”Given the challenges which are being brought to the forefront of our society and the questions which will undoubtedly rise to reach our supreme court, core issues of socio-economic equality and equity, there is no better meeting of an individual and the times,” Murphy said after making the nomination.
Pierre-Louis is currently in private practice, but before that she was the first Black woman to become the attorney-in-charge of both the Camden and Trenton field offices for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
“I just feel like I’m fortunate to be in this position and hope to be an inspiration to others,” Pierre-Louis said.